Your life is bearing fruit. Lots of it, every day.

Your words bear fruit. Your actions make a difference. Your ideas change the world. Your example is making disciples. It really is. Congratulations, your life is bearing fruit.

The question is, what kind of fruit?

It’s impossible, Jesus said, for a good tree to produce bad fruit. Does that mean my fruit is always positive? I’m a good tree, I think. Or am I?

What make a good tree good?

Again, Jesus gives us insight: A good tree is defined by good roots. What are roots? Roots are what a tree uses to pull nourishment—energy—from the soil.

Roots are only as good as the soil they’re growing in. So the real question is, where are your life’s roots pulling energy from?

Again, Jesus gives us the key: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, and the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). He’s saying that unless the Spirit of God inspires something, it cannot, in any way, shape, or form, be spiritual. You can’t make a cherry pie from potatoes. You can’t write in Greek using English. Reading about Tahiti cannot ever get you there.

And you can’t bear spiritual fruit through human effort. Period.

Oh, you can be nice, helpful, inspiring, courageous, and sacrificial. But no amount of human effort can pile up to amount to spiritual fruit.

Only a full reliance on the Holy Spirit, the kind that allows him to give birth to spiritual fruit in and through us, can produce what God is looking for.

Does this mean we don’t have to do anything to bear good fruit, that it’s “all God”? No, not at all. But it means our contribution, however amazing and flawless it appears to us, is nothing more or less than a little boy’s lunch offered to Jesus as the raw material he can use to work a miracle. My words from the pulpit, no matter how clever and eloquent, can no more affect real life change than reading a page from the phone book unless God is their source. Human words can only produce human results. Only Jesus has the words of life that can change the world and change my world, and change me. Jesus, in contrast to me, could read from the phone book and change a life doing it.

This past year I forgot that. I started believing that my own intelligence and giftedness were enough. Not that I was aware I’d forgotten. But surprise surprise, the lack of supernatural fruit was glaring at me like a balding desert. Oh, there was a whole lot of human fruit to placate me in the meantime: Admiration, nodding heads, a feeling of being good at what I do.

The last couple of weeks, though, I’ve been reminded that Christianity is “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” period. That I’m nothing without God. That unless he speaks through me, I’m nothing.

And, surprise surprise, Spirit has begun to give birth to spirit again. I’ve often said that the best sermon prep is always knowing God and knowing your Bible. But actually, the best sermon prep is a raw, white-knuckled dependence on the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do.

Cause no matter how amazing my sermon is, unless it’s born from above, it’s a waste of time. But not just my sermon. My life. My moments. My all.